Hello hello hello! Is There Anybody Out There? (God, I love this album.)
But seriously: Are any of y’all still reading here? The blog stat says that a good bunch of you all are still coming and visiting (thank you! thank you!) but I know I’ve been MIA and I’m truly sorry for the absence. Perchance it made the heart grow fonder?
You see, my second epic trip to Iran (commenced circa September 2015) which was meant to last all of two months turned into a semi-permanent stay. I ended up not leaving and instead living here. In the interim, a whirlwind of activity ensued: I gave a TEDxTehran talk; I took a few cool trips (gastro, cultural and business) in Iran; I started a podcast series called the “Stories of Fig & Quince” (in Persian for the time being but moving forward I hope to do have an English version as well); AND, I ended up starting a digital media company (Zeerak Media) in Tehran! I mean, WHOA!
Throughout, I’ve wanted to share it ALL with you, every bit of it, every day, and yet, a body has just so much energy and yours truly is doing my best to stay afloat and play catch-up (while self-medicating with plenty of Persian pastry and such for the upkeep of spirit). It bears repeating that while absent from the blog’s website, I have been micro-blogging regularly and practically daily on Instagram and if so inclined, you could always follow my adventures there. Just saying!
To get warmed up and back in the blogging game, I thought I’d share a few photos of my very short yet truly memorable trip to the exotic, colorful, hospitable and entirely fascinating Persian Gulf region of Iran (or “jonoob” as we also call it here) circa February 2016.
The genesis of my trip was an invitation to attend a 3-day music festival in “Tiroor” (a small city an hour drive from Bandar Abbas, the main port of Persian Gulf.) The festival planners had set up local food and arts & crafts kiosks for the local artisans to show off and flaunt and vend their handiwork. The lady in the photo, a local artisan, is covering her face with something called a burqa. This is a type of hejab exclusive to the “bandari” women of this region, and it has become more or less defunct and prevails mostly as the custom of the women who live in the small cities and villages in the region. There are many different types of burqa and each has a significance and signals the wearer’s status: married, widowed, young, old, bride. It is fascinating and yet too deep a subject for us to address except in this very harried and rather perfunctory way. (You can see a bunch of examples here.)
The traditional “bandari” clothing is very ornate, very cheerful, and boldly bright. There is nothing bashful or understated about the fashion, let’s say that straight up! The embroidery is called “golabatoon” and it is used on all the party and formal wear of the women. For example, a bride typically needs to have a trousseau of at least 20 outfits – tunic and leggings – all of which needs be embroidered and bejeweled by hand and it can take up to two weeks just to create one legging! It is a big and serious business, and the sweet lady featured here is one such much-in-demand artisan who meticulously embroiders these ornate designs on fabric. She told me she was booked solid for a year!
During the 3 nights that I spent in Tiroor, I was hosted by a wonderful family, with 6 daughters and one son; each nicer and kinder and more hospitable than the next, and here are glimpses of the 2 youngest sisters with whom I spent the most time. As you may be able to tell from the photo, the leggings are a marvel of patterns and handiwork, and mind you, these leggings are the casual ones they wore for informal entertainment around the house!
Continuing with the dizzying yet pleasing plethora of the bold patterns abundant in the region, here we have a bowl of dry & crispy and somewhat spicy snack popular in the region that is called “pofak hendi” or alternatively “ajeel hendi” but it also has a very cute bandari nickname which unfortunately I no longer recall!
Now let’s discuss this photo! It brings back such wonderful memories! The cover photo at the top of the page and this one is the documentation of the lovely and delicious breakfasts I was treated to every day by the very nice family who I mentioned hosted me during my 3 night stay in Tiroor. As you can spy with your little eye, the breakfast (served in a round tray as is the charming custom of Iran) included walnuts, sliced tomatoes, honey, taftoon bread, feta cheese and tea! It was such a nice and indulgent way to start the day. The lady of the house also made a tall stack of the small round soft bread you see in this tray in a little portable “tanoor” oven she had in the house. The sound you heard just now were a re-enactment of the squeals of joy I made when I was offered this bounty!
And let’s end with this still life of some of the souvenirs I brought back with me from this awesome trip. From top & clockwise: a really great book about the region written by a local female scholar; a red woolen burqa (older women wear this); a gold burqa (brides wear this); and a lovely bag of bandari mixed spices (cardamom, pepper, rose petals in the mix with other spices) that the locals use in everything from stews to seasoning fish and seafood.
OK, then! Hope this will do for a breaking-the-ice post after such a long absence and that you enjoyed it and that you’ve forgiven me a bit for going radio silent.
Meanwhile, for those of you who are farsizaban, I have a new podcast episode up narrating a tiny bit more of the story of the marvels of this trip to the Persian Gulf region of Iran. Do catch a listen and if you enjoy it, please do share the link with your friends. (Link!)
And now, it’s time to bid you a fond farewell. Thanks for sticking with me and I promise I shall be back soon with actual recipe posts (the food of the south and north of Iran is a revelation!) plus photo essays and travel stories. My intention is to start writing here regularly again. That is my fond hope and desire, and by golly, I shall do my best to fulfill it or bust.